Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Blockbuster Online First Impressions

Ever the early adopter, I signed up for Blockbuster's beta release of their new online movie rental service. Here are my first impressions.

1. If you live in the Dallas area, don't be concerned with delivery time. Blockbuster clearly has a major distribution center (their only?) in Dallas as I've regularly received movies one day after shipping. In fact, I signed up on a Friday around 1:00 in the afternoon, filled my queue, and received three movies in the mail at noon on Saturday.

2. The Blockbuster mailers are 95% identical to the Netflix version, the only difference being slightly higher quality paper and small tweaks to the sealing process.

3. Even though the program is still in early release, and presumably is underused currently, I already have two movies that are flagged as Very Long Wait, though nearly everything else is Available Now.

4. The site is clearly beta for a reason. I have odd occurences on the site, particularly being sent to the login screen as if my session had timed out, even though I had remained active. I've also had new movies ship before old movies are returned, to the point when I had four movies out at once, even though the plan is for three. And do not try to submit your credit card information on a Mac using anything other than an IE browser.

5. The two coupons for in-store rentals are provided online each month to print out and take to the store. I haven't had the opportunity to try them, but they do expire after one month. Everytime I describe the Blockbuster offering to anyone, by the far the biggest selling points are being $2 cheaper than Netflix and the two free in-store rentals each month, which overcomes the main limitation of online rentals, instant gratification!

My main disappointment with Blockbuster Online is that they had the chance to fix the most frustrating part of the Netflix site and decided to imitate instead. Which piece? The queue.

On both sites, your pending movie queue is a single long list (typically 30+) of titles with numeric text boxes next to each one. If you want to reorder your movies, you have to change the numbers of each movie you want to move and then click update. Imagine if you decide to move #20 to #5, and move every other movie down one. You would actually have to change every movie between #5 and #20 before hitting submit.

Compare that to how Typepad allows you organize your individual content sections by simply dragging the titles to where you want them and then adjusting the rest as necessary. With the amount of money and development going into each of these sites, I am sure they have the ability to develop a more intuitive, user-friendly, drag-and-drop version.

Overall, I've been very pleased with the Blockbuster service. The price and value are there, the selection had been very complete so far, and everything has worked very well for a beta program.